Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Afterthought #23 - Quakers on YouTube

A year after organizing what likely was the largest Clearness Committee in the history of Quakerism to discern a direction for his work, Quaker singer/songwriter Jon Watts has announced where the fruits of his labor led. In collaboration with Friends Journal, Friends General Conference (FGC), and Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), Jon will create a Quaker-themed YouTube Channel. This brief teaser has me looking forward to Jon’s new ministry.  I expect the adjectives used to describe it are apt: Succinct. Exciting. Informative.

You can join the project’s Quaker Speak mailing list to be notified when the first videos air.  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Voices of Peace and Social Justice

My remote, island community doesn’t have the best cellular service, so I have yet to acquire a smart phone; the pay-as-you-go flip phone I bought years ago for travel serves just fine for phone contact on the road.  But it doesn’t do all the things its more high-tech cousins do, so when I bought my new laptop a few years ago and those nice folks at Apple threw in an iPod Touch just for the price of sales tax (about $25.00), the offer was too good to resist.  

It didn’t take me long to begin to enjoy many of the features this device offers. It now serves as my calendar, address book, and note pad.  And I never imagined how much I’d enjoy downloading and listening to podcasts; I now have quite a library stored there including food programs, author interviews, news analysis, short stories read out loud, and comedy. 

One of my favorite podcasts is offered through Northern Spirit Radio (NSR). Since 2005, Mark Judkins Helpmeet, along with the support of Eau Claire Friends Meeting, has prepared Northern Spirit Radio’s programs to “promote world healing by broadcasting inspirational voices of peace and social justice using the language of personal story, music, and spirituality.” Though Mark is a Quaker, he talks with people from a wide range of faith perspectives on his two shows, Spirit in Action and Song of the Soul. The program’s website gives a flavor for the topics Mark and his guests tackle. Over the years I’ve had some great companions on walks as I’ve listened on my iPod to people responding deeply and intimately to Mark’s questions about the ways the Spirit is at work in their lives. 

As is true for many people who are led to spiritual work, Mark has a day job to help support his broadcasts.  A recent fundraising letter from NSR nudged me to take out my checkbook to help with those efforts.  It’s a small price to pay for some regular doses of inspiration. 

Where do you find voices of peace and social justice?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Kids on the Literary Block

Over the past two weeks, I’ve transferred a little magazine from my backpack to nightstand to kitchen table to desktop.  Its corners are curling, and its white cover is smudged, sure signs of well-appreciated reading material. Each time I pick it up, I’m glad I’ve subscribed to this new literary magazine,  The First Day

Published by Jana and Mike Llewellyn of First Day Press, The First Day is a quarterly print magazine that features in-depth articles, essays, and creative writing related to the arts, culture, and faith. Although The First Day is guided by Quaker principles and values, it strives to offer stories of hope, inspiration, journey, and discovery for people of all spiritual traditions and beliefs.

The inaugural issue does just that. Its pages are full of thought-provoking essays such as Chuck Fager’s personal look at racism in “Playing the Lottery,” and Kody Gabriel Hersh’s essay, “Queer Lessons for Spiritual Life.” There’s also fiction by Elizabeth Spencer and Quaker minister J. Brent Bill, and a dozen poems.

One of the issue’s highlights for me was interviews with writers Tracy Chevalier and Amy Brill.  Both authors have written novels with Quaker women as the main characters (Chevalier’s is The Last Runaway and Brill’s is titled The Movement of Stars), and the interviewers explore with the writers the books’ spiritual themes. Another delight was reviews of two television shows, Orange Is the New Black and Breaking Bad.  Even though I haven’t watched either program, I’ve heard plenty of buzz about both and appreciated the reviewers’ examination of the moral questions the shows raise.

In her introduction to this premier issue of The First Day, Jana writes of the uncertainty she and Mike felt of whether they would receive “well-written and poignant submissions.”  It’s clear from Volume 1, Issue 1, that there are plenty of writers out there who, as Jana found, “…show the deeper truths beneath stories of personal journey.”

While this slim volume supplies reading to occupy me for many hours, I don’t have to wait for Issue 2 for more offerings like these.  I’ve also subscribed to the press’s The First Day Blog for regular online posts about a wide range of personal spiritual experiences.

Jana and Mike Llewellyn bring considerable experience in writing, editing, and publishing to this endeavor, and it shows.  As a result of the couple’s faithfulness to a call to merge faith, culture, and creativity, people of all faith traditions, as well as those seeking a spiritual home, will find a welcome refuge at The First Day.